Lake Edward is among the smallest lakes of the African Great Lakes. It is located in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift, on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda, with its northern shore a few kilometers south of the equator.
The lake was named in honor of Prince Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, son of then British-monarch Queen Victoria, and later to become King Edward VII.
In 1973, Uganda and Zaire (DRC) renamed it Lake Idi Amin after Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. After his overthrow in 1979, it recovered its former name.
In 2014, the lake was the center of an oil dispute. However villagers and workers who attempted to stop the oil company from entering the area were beaten up and even kidnapped and tortured.
Plans to redraw the lines of Virunga’s boundaries and exclude the lake were taken into consideration.
However, since the Park is a world heritage site and the lake is part of it such plans naturally go against the World Heritage Convention.
Lake Edward lies at an elevation of 920 metres (3,020 ft), is 77 kilometers (48 mi) long by 40 kilometers (25 mi) wide at its maximum points, and covers a total surface area of 2,325 square kilometers (898 sq mi), making it the 15th-largest on the continent.
The lake is fed by the Nyamugasani River, the Ishasha River, the Rutshuru River, the Ntungwe River, and the Rwindi River.
Lake George to the northeast empties into it via the Kazinga Channel. Lake Edward empties to the north via the Semliki River into Lake Albert.
The western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley towers up to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above the western shore of the lake. The southern and eastern shores are flat lava plains. The Ruwenzori Mountains are 20 kilometers (12 mi) north of the lake.
The region shows much evidence of volcanic activity over the last 5000 years. The Katwe-Kikorongo and Bunyaruguru Volcanic Fields, with extensive cones and craters lie either side of the Kazinga Channel on the northwest shore of the lake. It is thought that Lakes George and Edward used to be joined as one larger lake, but lava from these fields flowed in and divided it, leaving only the Kazinga Channel as the remnant of the past union. To the south lies the May-ya-Moto thermally active volcano 30 kilometers (19 mi) away, and the Nyamuragira volcano in the western Virunga Mountains lies 80 kilometers (50 mi) south, but its lava flows have reached the lake in the past.
The Katwe-Kikorongo field features dozens of large craters and cones covering an area of 30 kilometers (19 mi) by 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) between lakes Edward and George, and includes seven crater lakes. The largest of these, the 2.5 kilometers (1.6 mi) long Lake Katwe, occupies a crater 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) across and is separated from Lake Edward by just 300 metres (980 ft) of land. The crater is about 100 metres (330 ft) deep, and Lake Katwe’s surface is about 40 metres (130 ft) lower than Lake Edward’s.
Stanley visited Lake Katwe in 1889 and noted the deep depression, the salinity of the lake, and a spring of sulphurous water nearby, but he failed to connect this to volcanism.
The similarly-sized Bunyaruguru field on the other side of the Kazinga Channel contains about 30 crater lakes, some of which are larger than Katwe.
Settlements around Lake Edward
Lake Edward lies completely within the Virunga National Park (Congo) and the Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda) and does not have extensive human habitation on its shores, except at Ishango (DRC) in the north, home to a park ranger training facility. About two-thirds of its waters are in the DRC and one third in Uganda. Apart from Ishango, the main Congolese settlement in the south is Vitshumbi, while the Ugandan settlements are Mweya and Katwe in the northeast, near the crater lake of that name, which is the chief producer of salt for Uganda.
Lake Edward is home to many species of fish, including populations of Bagrus docmak, Sarotherodon niloticus, Sarotherodon leucostictus, and over 50 species of Haplochromis and other haplochromine species, of which only 25 are formally described.
Fishing is an important activity among local residents. Fauna living on the banks of the lake – including chimpanzees, elephants, crocodiles, and lions – are protected by the national parks. The area is also home to many perennial and migratory bird species.
2018 Lake Edward Skirmish
On July 6, 2018 there was a naval skirmish between the two nations of Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo on Lake Edward.
This skirmish began as a result of Congolese naval vessels being sent to investigate reports of the Ugandan navy apprehending several Congolese fishing vessels, and civilians. This clash resulted in the deaths of one person, and the wounding of three others. However, the two governments dispute which side the casualties were on.